When I first went to university I was doing a module that looked in to a specific persons history, including their family history. I was very interested in it and when I mentioned it to my Nan she began to talk about how she would like to find out more about her fathers side of the family.
She told me her cousin (I think) was looking in to it. He had been by her house a few times, borrowed birth certificates and photographs, but never told her anything he found, or if he found anything at all.
So, my Nan asked me to look into it if I could. Being a history student gives me access to a lot of different websites, that hold a lot of different records. She gave me some very basic information, not a lot to go on. She wasn’t even sure who her great grandfather married or the year that he was born. Simply his name.
I recently decided to find out what I could. I think everyone should know where they come from. I know who my parents are, who my grandparents are etc. I know what they did for a living, how they lived. My Nan deserves to know this too.
Ancestry.co.uk allows for a free trial period. It has birth, death and marriage registration records; along with military records and census’. A registration record is simply an index with the most basic information. If you want a copy of the full record, e.g. a birth certificate, you can order to have a copy but you will have to pay extra for it.
Census records are what I consider to be the most valuable, they tend to take place every ten years. They contain a lot of information. A house address; those who live in the house; their relationship to the owner of the house; their age and marriage status; their occupation; where they were born; if they have any disabilities e.g. deaf; and what language they speak.
My Nan knew where her grandfather use to live when he was younger, but was unsure of who her great grandmother was. By looking up the street address, I was able to find out for her. I was also able to find out that her grandfather had siblings that she never knew about. With their ages being on a census record in 1901, it then becomes easy to get an approximate birth year for members of the family. For example, if one of them was six years old in 1901, then they would have either just turned six and been born in 1895 or was about to turn seven and born in 1894.
It is important to keep an eye on the age and birth place of each member of the family. There is going to be someone with the same name in the area and you don’t want to get them mixed up. Also something to note is that parishes/towns may have changed names over the years. A lot of places seem to have been renamed in the 1890s in my area. So far I have continued to go back every ten years and have gone back to a census record in 1861. It has taken me outside of my small village, where it appears the family has resided in so far, to another parish that is about a forty five minute drive West.
Mainly in the 1800s my family was made up of coal miners. This is quite normal, as the area I am from prides itself on its old mining industry.
The important thing to always remember is that you can never be 100% accurate going back as far as I have. There is always a chance an error has been made in documentation. The census document above is hand written. Those who would have written such documents would have written many of them in one day, going from house to house, street to street. You can only ever make plausible assumptions and educated guesses, but that is essentially what the entirety of history is.
I’ll be researching back even further than the 1860s next week and will keep updating my progress.
If anyone has any questions about anything I have mentioned I will happily answer them. Also, if anyone has any advice I would appreciate it.